Is Nairobi really accessible to people with disability? What determines how accessible or inaccessible a city or town is? These are questions that more often than not, cross our minds. So, what is accessibility? Common definition of accessibility refers to it as the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people disabilities.
Disability friendly cities are great for everyone. Besides having good sidewalks with wheelchair access, factors such as accessibility to hospitals, schools and recreational facilities are important qualities. It is important to not forget that disability is not just about people with physical impairments as it also extends to people with sight impairment, hearing impairment and to those with cognitive impairment or learning disability and mental disabilities.
Accessibility for disabled people means more than physical access to vehicles and systems. It includes information in forms that are useable by everyone, training of transport staff to understand the needs of disabled people, and design and layout of urban areas to enable people to move about safely and confidently. There is also need to have large print visuals or Braille or audio signals, ramps that are accessible and functional and including items such as mirrors in washrooms or even drinking taps that are inclusive and mindful of people with disabilities.
With that, is Nairobi accessible? Well the answer goes multiple ways, yes, no and maybe. Steps to pavements that should ideally be accessible make it difficult for people with physical disabilities to access. Narrow doors and corridors are also a problem in old buildings not forgetting lack of signage that is mindful of people with visual impairments that may need Braille or audio. However, not all is gloom as all new buildings are required by law to have accessible amenities. All we can do is hope that the city may one day be remodeled to cater for everyone without discrimination.
According to the United Nations, data on persons with disabilities are hard to come by in almost every country and importantly so, specific data on their employment situation are even harder to find. It further goes on to state that in developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialized countries the figure is between 50% and 70%.
In Kenya, the key ministries and agencies responsible for disability issues include The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development is the focal point for disability issues in Kenya. The National Council for Persons with Disabilities, the official arm of the government on disability issues, is under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development. The Ministry is responsible for 12 rural rehabilitation centers throughout the country and Nairobi’s Industrial Rehabilitation Center, which trains persons with disabilities for jobs. The National Rehabilitation Committee of the Department of Social Services also provides for vocational rehabilitation services. It is decentralized into 49 District Rehabilitation Centers. Activities undertaken by the centers are part of the National Rehabilitation Program, which was established to provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to acquire employable skills.
According to the 2007 survey carried out by the Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities; a third of the People with Disabilities work on own family business and about a quarter do not work. About 16% work for pay and one out of ten indicated that they were homemakers. The analysis further showed that People with Disabilities who reside in urban areas are more likely to be employed than their rural counterparts. People with disabilities from Nairobi were also more likely to be better educated: those with university education were 45%, middle level education 36%, secondary or “A” level 22% or post primary vocational education.
How much of this has changed? It is hard to answer this, owing to cultures hiding their relatives or children with disabilities thus giving falsified information, insufficient funds to hold regular surveys and most importantly, the fact that education being a core employment need, is not easily available to People with Disabilities, thus a lower rate in their employment compared to non-disabled people. However, this can be addressed if all sectors are willing to curb the high unemployment rates of People with Disabilities and if the approach used is a ‘people with disabilities first’, as the saying goes, nothing about us, without us. Multi-sectoral involvement in addressing unemployment and discrimination in the work place will go a long way in catering for the employment rights of People with Disabilities.
It was once called mental retardation, a term that is deemed highly offensive. It is characterized by below-average intelligence or mental ability and a lack of skills necessary for day-to-day living. Unlike popular belief, people with intellectual disabilities can and do learn new skills, but they learn them more slowly. There are varying degrees of intellectual disability, from mild to profound.
Intellectual disability affects about one percent of the population, and of those about 85 percent have mild intellectual disability. Males are more likely than females to be diagnosed with intellectual disability. Intellectual disability involves problems with general mental abilities that affect functioning in two areas: intellectual functioning (such as learning, problem solving, and judgment) and adaptive functioning (activities of daily life such as communication and independent living).
As per The Arc, an American organization for people with mental and developmental disabilities, the most common syndromes associated with intellectual disability is autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Common causes occur from genetic conditions (like Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome), problems during pregnancy (an alcoholic woman drinking during her pregnancy), problems at the time of birth, health problems such as whooping cough, measles or meningitis and exposure to environmental toxins like lead or mercury.
There are four broad areas of intervention that allow for active participation from caregivers, community members, clinicians, and of course, the individuals with an intellectual disability. These include psychosocial treatments which is primarily for children before and during the preschool years as this is the optimum time for intervention, behavioral treatments which include language and social skills acquisition, cognitive-behavioral treatments which is a combination of psychosocial and behavioral treatment, involves a learning technique that teaches children math, language, and other basic skills pertaining to memory and learning, and family-oriented strategies which delve into empowering the family with the skill set they need to support and encourage their child or children with an intellectual disability.
Language is one way in which we communicate on a daily. It is however, not normally used properly, and instances of disabling language is common in all spheres, both wittingly and non-wittingly. Various words and concepts used to describe disability all have their own histories and implications for people with disabilities.
Terms such as “differently abled” or “special,” for instance, have been commonly used but bring out a different meaning to what they were intended. “People-first” or “person-first” language is a way of describing disability that involves putting the word “person” or “people” before the word "disability" or the name of a disability, rather than placing the disability first and using it as an adjective.
Thus it is incorrect to say a blind man but correct to say visually impaired, hearing impaired instead of deaf, and non-verbal instead of dumb and so on. Instead of normal, the correct term is non-disabled. Such language is common and most people do not understand that they are offensive. The purpose of people-first language is to promote the idea that someone's disability label is just a disability label and not the defining characteristic of the entire individual.
Miss Wheelchair World got me thinking about efforts that disability organizations are making in empowering disabled women and men into accepting their beauty despite the society's standards. Kenya has held some of these beauty pageants and among the most impactive was the Mr. and Miss Albinism organized by the Albinism Society of Kenya, whose theme was 'Beauty Beyond Skin'. It was the first ever in the world which showcased the beauty in albinism. In a continent that has beliefs that have seen people with albinism killed and discriminated because of their skin color, such was a good way into mainstreaming albinism as a congenital disorder that needs to be celebrated not shunned.
Mr. and Miss Wheelchair Kenya was also another pageant held early this year and it sought to involve participants, young and old alike in wheelchairs. It was organized by Bacha Disabled Association whose aim is to empower people living with disability by creating empowerment platforms for them. Over the years, other pageants like Ray of Hope which saw the participation of women with physical disabilities, Mr. and Miss Deaf Kenya and Mr. and Miss Disability Kenya held last year.
These pageants, though very few, play a big role in mainstreaming disability issues. Involving the general public and media companies to stream these events is one way that we can tackle stigma associated with disabilities. It also gives young people living with disabilities confidence in themselves and a chance to get their talents realized, as was the case with an albinism contestant who got a 6 month French modeling contract. Besides boosting self-esteem of the contestants, it provides a network for their guardians and parents to share experiences. More of these pageants should take place as besides bracing the run way some of the designs they put on are created by disabled people, which goes a long way in economic empowerment.
Travelling is sometimes a challenge for people living with physical disabilities as you wonder how you will get there, if the hotel is accessible, how much money will be used for transport and if the destination you chose will be unbearably tiring for you. All this put into consideration may make one shun going for vacations or holidays with their family, in favor of the more comfortable options. Travelling doesn’t have to be a headache for you since gradually, the service industry has become more accommodative of people with disabilities. There are some tips, however, that you might find useful in planning for vacation or holiday. As per certified travelling and disabilities experts.
Research on the accommodations, if you wish to stay in a hotel, ask as many questions as you can about the accessibility of its amenities. You can ask how wide the doors of the lifts (or elevators are) as some are not wide enough for a wheelchair.
Book Hotels Wisely after doing your research, ensure that the hotel you are going does not disappoint you. It is human for the hotel to lie about its accessibility, as for some of them want profits. Thus you should really ask before going.
Choose the Right Destination this is important as some destinations are completely inaccessible to wheelchairs and or crutches. It also should have accessibility to basic facilities and should be at least nearer to your place of visit. The right destination should be centrally laced, in that, you can access the hospital (or clinic in case of complications), the supermarket or easily get transport from.
Plan on transport around your destination, since you will require to get around using an accessible vehicle, and one that carry your assistive device, you will have to liaise with either your contact person there, maybe a relative or an agent or even a taxi company to help you get options in vehicles.
With that, one should not shun to travel, but instead embrace it, and most importantly, enjoy it!
What is charity? The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes it as: Benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity, as generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering or aid given to those in need and an institution engaged in relief of the poor or public provision for the relief of the needy. These definitions all filter to one thing, pity.
Charities emerged as a way that the church could help the needy in the society. Most of these charity groups are run by abled people and their purpose is to voluntary help by providing for, educating and caring for those in society who are deemed "needy" in this case those with disabilities. These abled people running the charities either have disabled family, friend, colleague or for humanitarian purposes.
The charity model of disability portrays disability as a burden or a condition that needs to be constantly aided. This focus has made many to forget the rights of people with disabilities. Tom Shakespeare (a popular British sociologist) said that, "Charity is way for individuals and society to avoid their obligation to remove social barriers and support needy members of the community".
According people with disabilities their rights is the best way to help them. The CRPD was a milestone as most countries signed and assented the provisions within it. Aspects of diversity and inclusiveness were center stage with all sectors being urged to be inclusive through having facilities and infrastructure that is aware of all disabilities. If disability rights were observed, then there will be no need for charity
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
“Leaving no one behind, beginning with the furthest first.”
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) came up with a set of objectives in 2001 to tackle the indignity of poverty and they were known as the Millennium Development Goals. However in 2012, the Sustainable Development Goals were born in Rio and their objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is inclusive of disability and has produced goals that are inclusive of disability. They include;
Goal 4 Guaranteeing equal and accessible education by building inclusive learning environments and providing the needed assistance for persons with disabilities.
Goal 8 Promoting inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment allowing persons with disabilities to fully access the job market.
Goal 10 Emphasizing the social, economic and political inclusion of persons with disabilities
Goal 11 Creating accessible cities and water resources, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems, providing universal access to safe, inclusive, accessible and green public spaces.
Goal 17 Underlining the importance of data collection and monitoring of the SDGs, emphasis on disability disaggregated data.
The upcoming CEDAW* country reports are an important part of this conversation as it has brought about the aspect of multiple discrimination faced by women with disabilities. It has also brought about challenges in accessing medical care, inclusive education, sexual and reproductive health rights and most of all, a legislative and political voice.
How far have we gone as a country in addressing these issues? Sadly, not where we should be. A lot has been overlooked by both the policy makers and average mwananchi. The five SDGs on disability need to be the blue print for our national development in order to align ourselves with the 2030 Development Agenda.
*Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women
10th October is a day that marks World Mental Health day. This year's theme is Mental Health in the Workplace. According to the World Health Organization; more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, more than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both.
What are these mental health and disorders? They include; ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Early Psychosis and Psychosis, Eating Disorders, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophrenia and other related Conditions. They are a mouthful! That is the reason they go unnoticed. It is estimated that about half of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24.
How is this related to disability? Well, disability is a term that can be loosely defined as ‘restriction of ability caused by a condition’, which, in this case is a mental disorder. People suffering from depression often harbor thoughts of harming themselves, some going as far as trying to commit suicide. Failed suicide attempts give forth physical disabilities and neural disabilities. Compounded by guilt and stigma, more often than not, patients fail to talk to people about what they are going through and thus cases of multiple attempts to harm themselves.
What can we do to help those that are going through depression or anxiety or mental health disorders? Well, first and foremost, talk to them; listen carefully to their worries, don’t dismiss anything as too trivial. Most psychologists suggest communication as a major way to tackle some mental health disorders. Providing emotional support is also another way of helping patients. As a patient, communicate patiently with those around you so that they can at least help you or get you professional help.
Reproductive Health Matters (RHM) latest issue on Disability and Sexuality was co-produced by CREA. The issue focuses on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women with disabilities and features articles across different disabilities and regional experiences. This-Ability's was proud to be feature one of our "Faces of Diversity" photography series images on the cover. The project aim to create visibility for women with disabilities and challenging traditional stereotypes around gender, sexuality and disability.
Access the journal: tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09688080.2017.1345444
Adopting business principles to advance disability rights and inclusion for women and girls with disability in Kenya